Steps of Faith’s Billy Brimblecom Jr. on raising funds through Thundergong & Give Steps

The statistics cited on the Steps of Faith Foundation‘s website are sobering: 500 people a day lose a limb in the United States, 185,000 persons a year end up with an amputation, and the cost of a prosthetic limb can run $10,000 to $100,000. Nothing funny about any of that. 

But of course organizations such as Steps often rely on entertainment to raise funds and awareness. Case in point: Steps of Faith’s upcoming Thundergong event — Sunday, November 12, at the Uptown Theater — which has booked some big names to help its mission. The benefit includes Jason Sudeikis, Fred Armisen, Will Forte, Wynonna, the Get Up Kids, Krizz Kaliko, and Madisen Ward & Mama Bear, among others.

I spoke by phone with Steps of Faith’s executive director, Billy Brimblecom Jr., who also drums for the Thundergong house band, Summer Breeze.

The Pitch: What’s the story of the Steps of Faith Foundation?

Billy Brimblecom Jr.: Steps of Faith started in April of 2013. The genesis of it is this: The guy [Robert Pittman] that owned the prosthetics shop where I was a patient in Nashville, he and I had met and were talking about working together somehow. I was kind of looking for a change. I was playing music full time at the time, but — new baby, all that kind of stuff.

He had established a 501(c)(3), tax-exempt thing and had the idea, but it was doing nothing. He had this idea and the paperwork, and that was about it. He tossed me the keys, and I built the board and the business, so to speak.

Steps of Faith has done fundraisers before, but Thundergong seems like more than just a next-level sort thing. It’s almost the level after next.

You and I are speaking the same language, dude. I’ve said everything from “This is like winning the lottery” to “It’s like we’ve advanced two or three levels in a video game,” with Jason [Sudeikis] going, “Here’s your secret code” and snapping his fingers. It’s a significant leap for us. Just because we have this celebrity music presence that’s doing things for us now, I don’t want there to be the misconception that, “Oh, they’re a big charity!” We are not. At all. This is a significant jump up.

Jason and I are old friends, and Wynonna Judd’s husband [Cactus Moser] is on our board of directors and is an amputee drummer like me. I am very thankful to have those relationships, just because they’re my friends, but this is a significant blessing for us. This changes the trajectory.

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The Thundergong benefit is part of a month and a half–long fundraising initiative called “Give Steps” — not a stand-alone thing. Tell me a little more about trying to raise a quarter of a million dollars.

It came about because we have the Barkley and Crossroads [PR firms] helping us, and we had this meeting we had scheduled before our tickets went on sale. The meeting started with them saying, basically, “Now that you’ve sold most of your tickets in the first three days, we’re throwing the agenda out. We no longer need to help you sell tickets, and we’d like to help you just raise more money.”

I said, “OK, yeah, great, do tell,” and we started talking about the nuts and bolts of what we do: helping amputees who are uninsured, restoring people’s mobility and their livelihood, and all of that. Basically, 500 people lose a limb every day in America. That’s a real statistic. What we do is work with prosthetists around the country and pay their cost for the parts.

What that means is that we have access to an otherwise closed system, in our relationships with these prosthetic specialists around the country. For as low as $500, we can have someone back on their feet, walking again. So: 500 people lose a limb every day, Steps of Faith can help them for as low as $500. That’s $250,000. What if we were able to raise $250,000 and we were able to help 500 people? That’s remarkable, right?

Are you hoping to turn this visibility into a way to gain sustaining donors for Steps of Faith?

There’s been an overwhelming response to Thundergong. Our VIP tickets sold out in four minutes. I thought there was something wrong with the Ticketmaster site. We had not even reached out to sponsors. They started reaching out to us. It’s a blessing on so many levels.

We’re just looking to take this giant step forward and help a lot of people. Like you said — going up a couple of levels and really adding some sustainability to our organization, and really broadening our reach. This is an opportunity to take the time leading up to the event, and then a couple of weeks after, until Giving Tuesday. We’re trying to raise that chunk of money, but yes, also trying to sign people up to give that 20 bucks a month.

We have a very small amount of recurring giving. That alone isn’t really enough to keep us going, so that’s something that we’re always trying to get more eyes to. The term nonprofit really does organizations a disservice, because it’s really a business. It has to make money and spend money like any other business, but you’re giving money in places where you’re helping people.

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What’s the ultimate thing you want folks to take away from Thundergong and Give Steps?

We want to create an experience that is, at its core, about generosity and kindness and Kansas City, all the way. That was what Jason said to me in an early text message: “Let’s Kansas City the crap out of this.” And I knew exactly what he meant. Those are his words: kindness and KC, man. We live in this city that is beautiful. We live in a city that has the kind of resources that live in New York and L.A.

There’s all these nonprofits. Like, where’d I go growing up — to, like, Comets games and stuff? Kemper Arena. Where do we go see baseball? We go to Kaufmann Stadium. Just to name a couple of families that have done incredible things through their generous efforts.

We live in a very generous, philanthropic, very resourceful, beautiful city that has a lot to offer. Everybody has a degree or two of separation from each other, and it’s a beautiful thing that we can come together.

Thundergong takes place Sunday, November 12, at the Uptown Theater. Details on that show, along with tickets and the ability to donate, here.